As I began our summer-long series through Ephesians, I pointed out that Paul was writing to the faithful who lived in Ephesus; specifically, he was writing to “the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). That might seem obvious, but in the context of becoming the “healthy, active Body of Christ,” which is the focus of this sermon series, it’s an important distinction.
Unfortunately these days, there are many who are faithful to a variety of things related to Christian faith but not to Jesus. They might listen only to Gospel music or contemporary Christian music, but their lips complain about life more than praise God. They might be faithful in attendance to worship services and Bible studies at the church, but they never crack open their Bible at home. They might watch preachers on TV or listen to them on the radio, but they won’t share the Gospel with their friends and family. They might bring a list of requests for prayer, but they don’t trust God to answer or when he answers. They know a ton of commandments that other people are breaking and are quick to point them out, but they won’t obey the Great Commission. These are symptoms of an unhealthy faith.
How does that happen? I would guess that it starts with faith in Christ but somehow gets distracted to peripheral things, things that remind of Christ but are not Christ himself. I would also guess that the distractions begin with the circumstances of everyday life. Whenever we encounter pain and suffering, even when we have faith in God, it’s easy to find comfort in things that remind us of Jesus without actually trusting him. Christian music can calm us and help us to change our thoughts when we’re sad, angry, or confused, but is it the song or the one about whom the song was written and sung? Going to church often (not always) takes us out of the world where we encounter pain and suffering, but do we find comfort by being outside of the world’s influence or being with God himself? Do we find comfort in relationships with other Christians or in relationship with Jesus who saves us?
Please forgive the irony, but contemporary Christian singer Natalie Grant calls attention to this struggle in the song “More than Anything.” In one verse, she sings:
When I’m desperate and my heart’s overcome/ All that I need, You’ve already done/ When I’m desperate and my heart’s overcome/ All that I need, You’ve already done/ Oh Jesus, Help me want You more, than anything.
Help me want the Healer/ More than the healing/ Help me want the Savior/ More than the saving/ Help me want the Giver/ More than the giving/ Oh help me want You Jesus/ More than anything.
I suppose it comes down to the question: where’s your faith? Is it in Jesus himself or in the results of knowing Jesus? Certainly, those things strengthen our faith, but they can’t become the object of our faith. Even the people who experienced Jesus’ power when he fed 5000 people were more interested in bread than Jesus. He said to them in John 6:26, 27:
“I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Jesus expects his followers to put their faith in him alone. When circumstances threaten to distract us, he will be there. Where’s your faith?